I am turning 48 at the end of this month. Shocking isn't it? Well it is to me sometimes. I will fully admit this event has made me a bit mawkish so to cheer myself up I sought out the latest statistics on life expectancy. Definitely wasn't a pick-me-up. The lifespan of an average African American male has actually increased over the years. We still lag behind every other gender and ethnic group. We still suffer more diseases and die earlier than just about everybody in the US but a black male can expect to live 70.2 years.
That's 842.4 months.
That's 25,623 Days
That's 614,952 hours
That's 36,897,120 minutes
That's 2,213,827,200 seconds.
Sounds like that song from Rent. But to me the most important number is 68%. And numbers matter. The number 68 percent represents the amount of time I've lived out of my allotted 70.2 years. Now as morbid as this may seem I am not going to reseed into obscurity; well not any further than I am now. I think this is a great opportunity to reenergize and refocus my life. I remember the funeral scene in the movie Death Becomes Her when the Bruce Willis character is eulogized. The minister talks about how he lived a rich and full life starting at age 50. But is this true? Famously F. Scott Fitzgerald said "There are no second acts in American lives."That sounds a little too final for me so I did what every good scion of the generation that gave the world the term cyberspace would do, I googled "late bloomers."
It takes time to percolate genius I tell people. And hopefully I've perked enough. The fire has been on to varying degrees for all my life, but never hot enough to bring my creativity to a boil. There have always been tepid forays into something special but like a fragile soap bubble it burst right before my eyes. The plays I was in during college, the sketch comedy group, the novels, the false starts. Always poised on the verge of greatness but the summit just slightly above my head, shrouded in clouds. Outside of my reach.
Wikipedia states a late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. The term is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops more slowly than others in their age group, but eventually catches up and in some cases overtakes their peers, or an adult whose talent or genius in a particular field only appears later in life than is normal – in some cases only in old age.
So I sit on the first day of 2013 and wonder; Am I that late bloomer? I sure hope so. I think for all the Oprah Winfreys and Mark Zuckerburgs, who have a laser focus or just really good luck there are the Chris Langans of the world. A man whose IQ eclipses Alfred Einstein but because of life's little idiosyncrasies most of us have no idea who he is. Despite coming from a broken home and an abusive step-father he managed a perfect score on his SATs even though he fell asleep and took a nap in the middle of the test. But instead of finishing college he dropped out. And over the next 30 years he worked at everything from a ranch-hand to a forest service firefighter to his longest lasting profession: a bouncer. Not until 1999 right before he turned 48 did his true genius became publicly known. After an article in Esquire was published Mr. Langan's Cognitive Theoretical Model of the Universe (CTMU) became know as the "Theory of Everything". His work is said to rival Stephen Hawking or John Archibald Wheeler. He was the subject of Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers which I discussed here. Because he never finished college he had no academic cred. So therefore people who laud you as a genius never knew or respected him because he never published a paper and never worked within the confines of an academic setting. He wasn't allowed to build his genius upward. Life just kinda got in the way.
How can I spend the remaining 32% of my life and somehow find a way out of the bureaucratic mess that it has become? I read a blog about the 9 worst things about turning 50. The blog really didn't make me feel better. I know it may be that time but I'm just not ready to have that end-of-life conversation with my family and friends. Maybe I'll do that around the 85% mark. So how do I change my future? Do I look for wealthy benefactors? Do I throw caution and bills to the wind and "just do it!"? Being the sole caregiver of my mother who has dementia those options aren't really options at all. Sometimes I feel even more constrained than ever. Conscripted to a post I was unprepared for and to be honest not very willing to do. So on that first day of 2013 as I looked at that clock tick, tick, tick I realized that I didn't want to burn through anymore of the precious 32% of my life that I had left. That sometimes bold action is called for. So as time flowed from slow-motion introspection into real time decision-making I realized I had arrived at my answer. That I would be fearless or at least a little less hesitant. So I quit my job. I sent an email to my boss and resigned.
And then it was gone. The fear. Like the fleeting tick of that New Year's clock, that tiny moment that left me spent and renewed. The fear was gone. The fear of being forgotten, the fear of my mother's disease, the fear of not having a purpose. The fear that I would be an outlier forever. I had finally found my audacity and autonomy. It had arrived without warning and fanfare. No garish lights no trumps booming on high. It just became a part of me. Even though I may be closer to the end than the beginning its not the position you finish in when you cross the line, but that your life had some meaning between those two points. In my short story Satan by Starlight the narrator is cleaning out his dead uncle's house when he comes across a set of old encyclopedias from 1972. This made him think about life's ponderous meaning.
It is ultimately left up to ourselves to determine what goes between those dates. What determines the magnificent and grace of that dash in the middle. We can fill it with misery and pain or we can change it into exception and fulfillment. So as I sit here on the first day of 2013 and I am going to embrace the future. To make that dash as grand as I know it can be. To live the life that I have now not some life of a distance longing or regret. To be there for my mother and my friends and those in need of a smile, a warm embrace. A thank you. To tell the stories I am destined to tell; be they mine or some one else's. That the remaining 32 percent will be ten times better than the first 68. That life truly can begin at 50! Or 48 in my case.
ernest's funeral by Anyclip